When expectant parents are planning for the arrival of their newborns during the later stages of pregnancies, they go over the items they must have in place before the going into labor is likely. They are instructed by their birth class instructors or by the mom-to-be’s care providers about what items to have ready for the birth such as diapers, sleepers, bottles and/or a pump. And that means that any mom-to-be feels that a decision must be made before birth about how she plans on feeding her newborn which is the right thing to do.
At the same time, any mom that makes a decision to breastfeed must always keep in mind that there may be difficulty present when it comes to the infant latching. This means she will want to hire a lactation consultant to help with that. Additionally. many breastfed infants need formula supplementation which is also why it is a good idea to have formula on hand regardless of how the baby is going to be fed.
However, one thing that very few expectant parents consider is that their infants may have an allergy to milk or soy which really can become distressing upon discovery. In fact, this thought doesn’t even dawn on parents unless they have a milk or soy allergy themselves, or a family member has either of those allergies.
And with that said, since it is quite possible for infants to have an allergy to milk or soy, you may be now wondering if it is possible for babies to have an allergy to breastmilk. Let’s go over that right now and find out.
Can Babies Be Allergic to Breast Milk?
The good news is that according to Healthy Children.org which is a website that is powered by pediatricians notes that it is not possible for infants to have an allergy to breastmilk itself. However, it is possible that infants can have allergic reactions to foods that the mother is consuming which are expressed through breastmilk.
And, according to the same source, it was noted that 2 or 3 out of 100 of babies that are exclusively breastfed do demonstrate allergic reactions when the mother consumes cow’s milk. That means it is common for babies to have an allergy to cow’s milk and they are ingesting the proteins from it which causes those worrisome reactions.
For more info on what to do if you suffer from food poisoning while breastfeeding, check this blog post.
Such allergic reactions may involve severe abdominal discomfort, extreme colic, skin rashes, diarrhea with blood, vomiting, and breathing difficulties. It is frightening when this happens, as milk allergy in addition to other food allergies can indeed be fatal.
Babies can show discomfort such as gas and crankiness after being breastfed if the nursing mother is eating foods that are not agreeing with the baby’s system. However, that is not worrisome because those symptoms alone are not indicative of an allergy. These are just a result of foods that don’t agree with a baby, the same way after eating something would give anyone gas or heartburn. And the mother will want to alter her diet if this is a common issue for the sake of the baby’s comfort.
However, there is a rare condition called galactosemia where a baby is unable to tolerate breast milk at all to the point that it could be serious. Galactosemia is not an allergy to breast milk per se. According to the U.S. National Library Of Medicine, galactosemia is the inability to break down galactose which is a milk sugar that is one of the components of lactose. Babies that have this condition will experience diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, and will fail to thrive within days after being born. This means that infants that have this condition cannot consume dairy of any kind and will only be able to live on a dairy-free diet.
However, don’t fear that your baby will develop galactosemia out of nowhere. According to Rare Diseases, galactosemia is an autosomal recessive mutation which means both parents have to carry it. And as a result, there is a 1 in 4 chance that the infant will end up with the condition. There are different types of the disorder and parents can always get a DNA test to see if they carry the mutation if there is a reason to be concerned.
If one parent carries it but the other parent does not, then there are no chances that the baby can develop galactosemia. However, if galactosemia is not an issue and the infant is displaying allergic reactions to breast milk if the nursing mother does drink cow’s milk, then that is what it is – a milk allergy. Let’s go delve into that further and find out more about milk allergies in infants.
Why is Your Baby Be Allergic to Milk?
Infants having a milk allergy is quite common. The reason that many babies do have an allergy to cow’s milk is that his or her immune system goes into overdrive when the proteins from cow’s milk enter the system, according to KidsHealth.org.
The immune system that normally fights infections mistakenly thinks that the proteins in cow’s milk are invaders and fight it the same way as it would when it comes to viruses, fungi, and bacteria. In other words. the immune system thinks that the proteins in cow’s milk is a harmful invader and treats it the same way as it would to an infection.
However, it is also possible that infants can grow out of a milk allergy, but many people don’t and stay allergic to milk.
How to Know If Your Baby Is Allergic to Milk?
Reactions to food allergies, in general, are frightening as they are extreme. According to WhatTo Expect, infants that display milk allergies will have dropping blood pressure, blood in their diarrhea, have vomiting, rashes, abdominal pain, hoarseness, hives, scaly skin, swelling of the mouth and tongue. They will also have watery eyes, have trouble breathing and swallowing, and can even turn blue.
However, if your infant is extremely irritable, gassy, and is spitting up frequently without the other symptoms that can be a result of milk intolerance or colic. Milk intolerance is not an allergy and the symptoms are not nearly as serious. It has to do with the digestive system having trouble with breaking down the milk proteins, and nothing to do with the immune system.
According to the same source, infants that are allergic to milk will likely be allergic to soy. And this is a concern since parents of infants that have a milk allergy will not know what to do.
What Are the Best Alternatives for Milk And Soy Formula?
Babies that have a cow’s milk allergy will not be able to go on soy formula either, as well as formulas that involve goat’s milk. However, the good news is that according to WhatToExpect, hypoallergenic formula with hydrolysate protein such as Nutramigen will be easily tolerated by the baby.
This type of formula has milk proteins that are broken down partially which means a reaction is less likely to happen. And for mothers who are breastfeeding will be instructed to no longer consume dairy which means that the nursing mothers will need to find out how to get calcium through other sources.
When Should You See A Doctor?
If your baby is displaying any signs of having a milk allergy as it was mentioned previously, then the infant needs to be taken to the ER right away. Severe allergic reaction to milk can become fatal, and parents will know it is serious if the symptoms come on with intensity.
However, if symptoms are milder such as the baby developing hives, being in pain, having some vomiting but isn’t having difficulty breathing, the allergy may be milder. The baby needs to be seen by the pediatrician right away based on even the mildest symptoms.
That means that the parents will be instructed to only purchase the hypoallergenic formula, or if the mother is nursing, she will be told to cut dairy out of her diet. Babies that have a milk allergy will need to have an epinephrine auto-injector given immediately as well which will be done at the ER, and parents will need to make sure they have some on hand as the doctor will prescribe them in severe cases.
Additionally, the doctor will order stool and blood tests after examining the baby in order to determine if there is a milk allergy present. The pediatrician may also refer the infant to a pediatric allergist as well.
The allergist will likely do skin testing which will involve putting a small amount of milk protein on the skin after scratching it. And if the baby develops hives from that, then he or she has a milk allergy.
Finding out that your infant has a milk allergy is frightening, but if it is caught early and symptoms are treated right away, the baby will be fine. But it is critical that parents need to know what to look for regardless of whether or not there is a history of milk allergies in the family.
And if there is a history of milk allergies in the family, then the odds of the infant developing it are high which means extra precautions need to be taken right away.